NASA Space Apps Challenge 2015, Local lead Vienna, Austria
CEE Community & Communication Coordinator
Grown up in a family business nest, education in Slovenia, Italy and Austria, Phd in Business communication, 6+ languages, 20+ years working experience as journalist-PR-Marketing … she calls it Communication & Storytelling of Innovation & the New in Europe and Middle East.
But of all titles Urška likes to be Lead Butterfly. To inspire and get inspired.
From coincidence to Marssimulation
Urška met Irena Chaushevska at the European Patent Office in Munich, where she was organizing an event that time as a member of the RealMakers. “We’ve remained in touch to discuss possible cooperation in other projects.” It was a kind of crazy very short-termed proposal when Irena addressed her to take over as NASA Space Apps Challenge 2015 lead for Vienna, but she is used of oddity. When she was 9 her family started the first family business in the country before it was even legally allowed. “My father is an entrepreneur, a real one. I have this in my blood, if I want it or not.” she laughs, “From the moment I decide to do something, I just focus on how to make best of it.” With this spirit she has taken also over as the NASA Space Apps Challenge CEE Community & Communication Coordinator.
A coincidence, that same moment when Irena approached her she got an invitation to an event at INiTS, the Business University Incubator of Vienna. A perfect match as host! And so has started the adventure which will finish in an incredible way; Austrian Space Forum will host the Vienna winning team at the highest ever analog Mars simulation at the Kaunertal glacier and at the AMADEE-15 Marssimulation Mission Support Center in Innsbruck. “That’s so cool, I should consider to compete, not organize the event!” she laughs again.
It is difficult on such a short term, but Urška and Irene Fialka, head of the INiTS, and her team are working hard to make a special experience for everyone. Being involved in innovation, she has been mainly working with male colleagues in her life. “I love this spirit with Irene Fialka here, Irena and her ladies in Macedonia and other leads around CEE.”
Vienna, a place to be
Vienna is just the place to be right now, ranking at 6th place as startup dome and 1st place worldwide for the city quality of life. But it has not always been like that. In 2002 Urska happened to move to Vienna. “Love is blind,” she adds, “I actually wanted to US after my PhD, but September 11 happened.” Although living in Vienna, she preferred to co-found a business in Slovenia and Italy and then in Dubai … before thinking of Vienna. “Now a young foreigner with innovative ideas is cool, can easily find support. That time one was just a crazy foreigner … and felt like that.”
Now the Austrian state supports the innovation development, good small and big players are growing, prestigious events taking place – is there anything missing? “The sea,” smiles Urška, born at the Slovenian coast of Istria. “Maybe the right question is not what is missing, but what’s next?”
Life before and after pitching
It is very promising reading all the stories about start-ups and small and medium sized enterprises creating new jobs and saving the economy. But it might not work on long-term, if we don’t give people all the competences to deal with the reality. “We all know what to do, if we cut ourselves. Every kid takes Band-Aids and protects the physical injury. But we have no idea how to deal with the failure or any other emotional injuries which start-upers face all the time. Or how to deal with success. It’s not only about the pitch, but also about life before and after that.”
Really a topic for the disruptive innovators? “I also thought, ah, who cares, no time for romantics when you fund,” she says, but times have changed. For 10 years nobody was talking about burnout and this stuff, today is different. She gives an example of the Jerry Colonna’s session at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna last year, “A big hall at the imperial palace full with digital multi-taskers, persons who on average at least tweet, chat and listen to the music at the same time. At least. And Jerry is talking about burn out. Anybody interested in this uncool topic? At the Pioneers Festival? The hall was full and at the end there was a complete silence, people … listening. Just listening. I was astound.”
Apparently a topic that matters to pioneers.
Entrepreneurship as state of mind
Urška had the honor to interview the finalists of the European Inventor Award last year in Berlin. She talked to the inventors of 3D printer, QR-code, of the new filter converting salt water to drinkable water, Mr. Arthur Fischer and amazing persons like that who were asked about what is important in the innovation process. Nobody put money at first place, “Yes, it’s one element, but not the only and the most important one,” she learnt from them.
And, that many think innovation must be something big. “Very often the biggest innovation is just not repeating the same mistake(s).”
She believes that many good changes would happen, if we would focus on development of entrepreneurs and not so much on start-ups. “Being an entrepreneur is a state of mind for every aspect of life, not only the business one,” she explains. Through The GoodList.eu initiative that she has started she is coming in touch with many start-ups willing to combine the ‘for profit’ and ‘non-profit’. “This is really crazy, everyone is talking about being innovative, creating new companies and then it is impossible here in Europe for entrepreneurs to have a simple form which legally gives them the space for both to care for the impact and profit.”
The young and old elephants
Another issue that she finds very important: the gap between start-ups and corporations, between young and old.
“I was at the Fear&Fail event some weeks ago and heard from another speaker, Michael Vogler, an incredible story,” she starts excited.
The story about the young elephants brought to a natural park in South Africa to attract more visitors. Visitors came, but elephants were very disruptive; ruining everything and killing other animals. What to do? The authorities wanted to kill the young elephants, but then the Wise of the local tribe suggested to bring an old elephant. And an old elephant was brought. Everyone expected it to put younger under pressure, to ‘adjust’ them, but it did nothing of that. It was on its own eating grass and conducting life of an elephant. Nothing else. People got nervous, but after a short time noticed that young elephants were not aggressive anymore and found a coexistence with the ecosystem.
“Not teaching, judging, trying to change … just being an example. A good example. This is the role of an old elephant. Maybe a story for the many self-proclaimed angels and other saints around start-ups, to help them better understand their role.”
Stories will always be
What about the future, we wanted to hear.
“I’m mother of three kids between 4 and 10 now and in 2025 the older will hopefully talk with me (again) and the younger teenagers will probably ignore me.” she smiles, “No technology can change that.” Coming to her area of work, “We will still tell and consume information collected in entities awaking emotions. And by the same story some persons will have one reaction and other a different one, because we humans have and will have different natures. Which is good, because innovation needs diversity.” Exactly that has been her focus last years,
“How to treasure from diversity instead of ruining it with ‘equality for every price’. Plus how to walk the innovation and storytelling hand in hand. Smart cities need smart communities and smart spirit… Technology is only the mean. In 2025 we will have Content Hubs around and Europe will regain the role in ‘life innovation’ that it already had in history. Wouldn’t that be cool?”
Every flap matters
Urška hopes that we will get smart enough to focus on things that really matter. She likes the examples from the nature, for example the Butterfly effect, the theory by meteorologist Edward Lorenz saying that when a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world it can cause or prevent a hurricane in another part of the world.
“There are seemingly insignificant acts that shape our destinies. Talking about entrepreneurship; every flap matters, if we want it or not.” she explains. “With all the brain research taking place, it will be thrilling to be a storyteller in the future.” she pauses and adds with a smile, “A Lead Butterfly … and then, one day, an old elephant.”